Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Final Report - Great Summer!

I have been back for a week and am busy settling down for another year of university. Needless to say, I could not have wished for a better summer than this one. There are countless memorable and enriching moments to my internship, so I will only designate a few that have influenced it the most.

Firstly, the Berne trip was one of the highlights of the summer. It was a nice way to mingle with other scholars as well as to enjoy the Swiss capital. I had actually never visited Berne before, so I was very excited for the trip. I was delighted to meet many of my fellow scholars and it struck me how diverse our group was; there were architects, biologists, chemists, engineers... The city historical tour and at the US embassy was very instructive and interesting. At the end of the day, we swam in the Aare river, which was quite an experience due to the strong flow from melted glacier water.

Secondly, I traveled to many places and discovered new hiking trails in the Alps. Every Swiss boasts about their public transportation and how Swiss's location in Europe is ideal for traveling. I now understand such national pride because I have personally experienced the convenience of traveling on Swiss public transportation. I jumped on the train to Geneva to see my family; jumped on the train to go hiking. I hopped on the train or the bus wherever I needed to go, it was just quick, reliable and easy.
Thirdly, my mentor, Susan, is probably the person who most positively influenced my internship. I was able to work, plan and progress in my research project independently, yet she would often give me feedback and challenge my critical thinking skills. I was able to not only become proficient in new biomedical research techniques, but also to learn how to interact and work with different people in a large lab setting. I hope to work again with her in the future

I very much enjoyed my research experience and have had no issue integrating in the lab, in fact I felt entirely immersed in the team from the first day of my internship. Everybody was very hospitable and welcoming for example almost every week we had a lab barbecue or festivity taken place.
The Swartz lab is primarily comprised of scientists and students from North America, however there are a fair number of students from Europe and Asia. The research mentality was thus not too different from my previous research experience.
I was astonished by the immensity of Swiss labs in contrast to US labs. My Swiss lab almost occupies an entire floor building and dozens of major cutting-edge projects are being undertaken there. At least for bioengineering and biotechnology research, one big advantage Switzerland clearly has over the US is in research operating budget. With large research budgets and great working conditions, Swiss research labs are highly regarded and sought by scientists worldwide.
At a barbecue, a fellow ThinkSwiss scholar said to me that Swiss (or Europeans in general) are too laid back in life and are too relaxed at work. People in the US have a lot more competitive mindset than in Europe, but it was interesting to notice such difference in mentality.

During my stay, I encountered several drawbacks mainly due to my ill-considered planning. Firstly, I should have planned to stay longer for my research stay. Although time is always an uncontrollable issue for summer students, I could have perhaps further contributed to my research project had I stayed for a few more weeks.
Advice for future ThinkSwiss scholars: I would encourage you to stay as long as possible, because TIME FLIES when you're there! Trust me!
Secondly, I did not balance my work and leisure very well. Many a time being carried away by interesting experiments, I found myself stuck in lab until midnight on a Friday night. In the future, I need dedicate more time to actually enjoy life.
Advice: Unless you are a 100% lab rat or take no pleasure in exploring one of the most beautiful country in the world, please plan you weekends and traveling time well in advance. Preferably, allocate and plan your time before even arriving there.
Last advice I want to say is be prepared to meet and connect with as many people as you can during you stay.

Overall, I am beyond satisfied with the research experience Thinkswiss has provided me. Although I am quite familiar with Switzerland, I discovered and travelled to more beautiful places. More importantly though, I not only visited family and friends, but also met many of my fellow aspiring researchers and interacted with scientists from the Swiss community. In the future, I certainly consider returning to Switzerland for studies and work. I highly recommend this research opportunity to anyone. Thank you very much ThinkSwiss!

1 comment:

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